I’ve been halfway around the world again to race in Australia. It’s a long way, but it’s worth it to feel the sun on your face every morning when the UK was snowed in. The annual International Festival of Speed held at Eastern Creek is a jewel of a meeting, and always brings along some big names. Troy Bayliss, Troy Corser, Frankie Chili, Chris Vermeulen, Kevin Magee and Steve Parrish all attended this year.
I got to race Corser again on the big P5 air-cooled bikes; he’s a competitive bugger. We all do a parade event that usually turns into a free-for-all. First lap is half-sensible, then pride takes over and quickly it becomes a race. I was lucky enough to ride an ’08 factory XRF5 Suzuki GSX-R1000, Frankie rode an ex-Laverty Voltcom factory Suzuki GSX-R, Bayliss rode his 2002 WSB Ducati 998, Corser rode TB’s current ASBK Panigale, Magoo was on his Yamaha YZR500, with Vermeulen and Stavros on RG500’s. You tend to forget the value of these rare machines and Corser didn’t help matters when he pulled the pin crossing the line on lap two on the Pani. I went head-to-head with him on my Harris Yamaha in the P5 unlimited race and a beautiful MK8 RG500 in the two-stroke class.
We watched the Thai WSB races in the hotel bar at the track. During race one, Frankie was adamant that Xavi Fores was going to beat Rea, so he had to buy the beers. To be fair, I had to buy them after race two when JR didn’t do the double...
Everyone is talking about the Argentinian MotoGP. In our sport, everyone has their own opinions and these are usually clouded depending on which rider they support. Fans bay for blood, it’s in our nature, but is it acceptable in motorcycle racing? When I watch UFC I find myself drawn in, and regardless of who’s fighting, I immediately take a side. I’ve no idea why but maybe I see one as an underdog. When my guy starts to get the upper hand, draw blood or strangle the other into submission, it’s captivating. We all know that Marquez screwed up but some fans can’t accept he did anything wrong, including not starting from pitlane after stalling on the grid.
Why he continued to barge his way through without any consideration or respect for his opponents is a mystery as he was lapping so much faster than anyone. When Marquez pulls down his visor he turns into some kind of wild animal; if he is penalised it’s like baiting a bear with a big stick. We don’t need to subdue our intoxicating sport into a zero-contact, dull version of what it is today as some contact is inevitable. We’ve all come in with rubber on our fairing and leathers, and it’s fun.
Riders usually have a laugh about it afterwards and this shouldn’t result in dropping a place or a ride-through penalty. Loris Baz actually commented about how much he enjoyed the hard charging and some contact during the Thai WSB race.
There is an argument, however, for race direction to set down some laws for blatant infringements. I guess this is where it gets complicated but for as long as I can remember there has been no consistency for penalties.
In Argentina, Zarco forcefully touched Pedrosa who then highsided on a wetter part of the track that he wouldn’t have been on had he not been forced wide. Petrucci ran into Aleix Espargaro – according to Aleix this was worse than the Marquez move on Rossi, but neither Zarco nor Petrucci were penalised. Possibly the worst crime of Argentina was Aron Carnet’s move on Makar Yurchenko in Moto3 FP1. As far as I could tell, he intentionally took Yurchenko out for getting in his way earlier in the lap, and I’d say it was more serious than anything else that happened during the weekend.
On this occasion, race direction decided it was a racing incident, which carries no penalty. It must be the strangest decision of the decade. It’s time to set out procedures for gross misconduct on track and inform riders what to expect. If Marquez thought he might get a 30-second penalty for overly aggressive riding he wouldn’t have run into that turn on lap 20 at that speed.